Flipped Out

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Thanks to Jasper for allowing me to use footage of his airborne antics!

Having been motivated and challenged by the esteemed likes of Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams, the pioneers of the flipped classroom, Peter Pappas through his blog exhortation, and Brian Bennett through his google hangout interaction and blogging, it is time to figure out what this flipping process is really all about.

Jonathan Bergman in The Flipped Class Blog outlines the potential benefits of the flipped classroom saying:

“We believe strongly in the proper implementation of the Flipped Model because it has so many benefits which speak to the heart of education reform.  The Flipped Model allows for:

Furthermore, Peter Pappas says:

“Instead of class time being filled with the pointless transfer of information from teacher to student, you and your students would have the time to apply and explore the content in a more engaging and project-based classroom.”

His statement is what started the rusty wheels of my imagination turning, as I started to dream of all the possibilities and benefits of this process for preparing my students for life after high school.  Actually, what it did was bring to mind the conversations I have recently enjoyed having with some of my students, as described at the beginning of my previous post Less is More.  Though we talk about student’s hopes, dreams and thoughts, it is not those particular conversations that I want to focus on.  Instead, it is the learning-driven, sometimes curriculum-based, problem-solving discussions I have been privileged enough to listen to and be part of.

To set the scene …

timepiece prime time clock closeup watch by zoute drop

When I think about the learning that I get most enthusiastic about, it is not the “learning” I hope is going on when I deliver my carefully prepared and scripted lesson.  This is teaching … not learning.  I don’t know (and probably don’t want to know) what is going on in the minds of my students as I lead them through our proscribed material for the day.  At the end of the class, I try to gauge how much they took in by seeing how effectively they can solve the examples.  Unfortunately, these examples are often straightforward as students need some proficiency in a topic before I can give them the more interesting questions and we just never have time to do these FUN questions.

But, I hear you ask, “Where is the problem-solving discussion you said you were part of?”  Where indeed!

I have had those discussions and enjoyed the thrill of hearing students engage in true learning.  Unfortunately, as indicated above, it is rarely happens during classtime.  Instead, this year I have experienced this pleasure in two unique settings.  Firstly, I have started offering bonus questions, when possible, to my BC Calculus and IB H2 students.  Students are invited to come and solve these problems with a partner after school.  The questions push the boundaries of what students know and provide them with the opportunity to try, and to fail, because they do not know exactly how to go about solving the problem.  But as they try and fail, and try and fail again, they start to truly share and discuss their problem-solving strategies.  They are engaged … they are motivated … they are INSPIRING!!  Some students have come back multiple times to work on the same question, making success that much sweeter.  Celebrating when someone succeeds after multiple attempts is a fabulous experience.

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The second place where I have listened to and been part of such extraordinary conversation is in Math Team.  Each week multiple questions are proposed and groups of students work together to reach a solution.  They wander from group to group, questioning, arguing, analyzing, evaluating, THINKING, until they can eventually put all the pieces together and reach a solution.  One night a dedicated group worked on one particular problem for three hours, only to finally head home, not having reached a solution.  But each time we met in the hall or in the classroom, we would ask if anyone had made progress on the question.  I proposed it to students in my classes and they started bringing in new approaches to spark further progress.  Students not in Math Team or in my class were also bringing their ideas to me, having heard their friends talking about the question. What joy!!  To date, no one has reached a solution, but someone did find the solution online.  Despite this, many do not want to know the answer yet as they know their own solution is just around the corner.  Their next approach may just be the one that finally works!!


Problem Solving by Martino

Brian Bennett’s characteristics of an effective flipped classroom outline many of the outcomes that I find most invigorating about these problem-based conversations with students.  He says: In a flipped classroom

What these articles have finally driven through my exceptionally thick skull is that a flipped classroom would allow me to experience that rush of watching students learn and grow and struggle and fail and keep struggling until, having passed through fire, they emerge victorious and empowered on a daily basis, not just after school or in Math Team.  So, rather than saving these questions for after school when only those who want the extra credit show up, the flipped classroom would make them available to everyone.  And all students would have the opportunity to be part of the discussion.  And who knows, maybe while I am having so much fun, my students might just learn some math, and more importantly, learn to be independent thinkers and problem-solvers that truly are ready for the real world.  WOW!!  I can’t wait to get started!

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